IT IS, I, ANN HIRSCH: horny lil feminist



Ann Hirsch, ButterFace from "horny lil feminist," 2014­15 (still). Video, sound, color; 2:21 min. Courtesy the artist. 

Copresented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of First Look: New Art Online. View work. (Contains nudity.)

In 1978, feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin commented that "no woman needs intercourse; few women escape it." Dworkin's viewpoint is consistently marked by refusal and withdrawal, particularly in relation to more sex-positive and arguably more livable philosophies. And yet, her condemnation of intercourse and, by extension, heteronormative gender definitions can nag at aspiring feminists seeking to define their own path in the face of desire's true complexity. Ann Hirsch's "horny lil feminist" (2014–15) eschews the notion that desire necessarily hews to our political and personal ideals and rather interrogates how it is formed out of the often unjust—sometimes oppressive, sometimes progressive—power dynamics of our daily lives.

An artist noted for her thoughtful and fresh take on feminist issues, Hirsch creates installation, performance, and online works that often examine sites of female agency within the media. Her previous works have involved her recreating a cyber–love affair she had as a teen with an older man in a piece that was made available both as an e-book transcription of all their AOL chats and a live performance (the e-book version was made available on iTunes and was subsequently kicked off, as it was deemed "crude and objectionable"). Hirsch's other works have included YouTube performances as a character called Scandalishious that rip what is popularly known as the "camwhore" aesthetic, whereby a girl titillates her anonymous online viewers through performances for her computer's built-in camera.


Required Reading: Net Art gets bodied


 Ann Hirsch, Playground, 2013 Performance at the New Museum

Johanna Fateman's "Women on the Verge," running in the current issue of Artforum, takes an in-depth and sensitive look at the recent online exhibition "Body Anxiety" and the work of several notable artists currently working online. The article serves as an excellent snapshot of the "current predicament" of contemporary feminism, and the seemingly conflicted positions the artists adopt:

As skeptical inheritors of the third-wave pro-sex torch, they share no unified agenda, only a cultural predicament. If to put an image of one's body on the Internet is to frame it with the apparatus of porn, to lose control of its circulation, and to expose oneself to the cultural anxiety, sexist scrutiny, and confounding hostility that attend the gesture, then what’s the way forward? There’s no single path, of course. But in many of the standout works that have emerged from this scene, young women—in registers of resignation or defiance, didactically or through performing the intertwinements of "sexuality, innocence, darkness, complacency"—seem to pull off the paradoxical feat of taking back their images at the very moment of surrender.

To celebrate this well-deserved consideration, we've collected a few resources from the Rhizome archives for further research into the topics and artists that were covered in this article, and one or two that weren't:

Josephine Bosma's review "'Body Anxiety:' Sabatoging Big Daddy Mainframe, via Online Exhibition," which discusses the show in the context of prehistories of feminism in net art.

This resource list by the Old Boys Network, which includes manifestos and writings from '90s cyberfeminist leaders like VNS Matrix and Shu Lea Cheang. This 1998 interview between Cheang and Alex Galloway is well worth revisiting. A more recent 2012 interview with Cheang and Yin Ho can be found here, in which she discusses at length her 1998 project Brandon. Parts of the project have now been restored on the Guggenheim website.

Ann Hirsch, whose 2013 Rhizome commission Playground was presented last weekend at JOAN in Los Angeles, was quoted extensively in Fateman's essay. For more on Hirsch, see her 2012 Artist Profile, Moira Weigel on Playground, and Morgan Quaintance's review of the London performance.

An Artist Profile of Jennifer Chan highlights the artist-curator's attention to cyberfeminism in relation to her own practice.

Last fall, Hannah Black and Amalia Ulman participated in our series of discussions Art in Circulation, during which Ulman launched the First Look exhibition of Excellences & Perfections. There have also been Artist Profiles of the former and the latter.

Bunny Rogers talked in depth about online identities in her Artist Profile, and participated in an evening called Internet as Poetry last summer. She'll be working on a Rhizome commission later this year.

Finally, check out Rachel Rabbit White's recap of the 2013 women-only event Zoë Salditch curated at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn, Oh gURL: It’s so good to finally meet u IRL.

Enjoy, and we hope to see more writing about net art and online exhibitions from Artforum in the future.


Rhizome's Spring 2015 Program


Ben Schumacher, Rebirth of the Bath House, 2014 Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal. Installation view

This spring, we're looking ahead to next year's 20th anniversary, and renewing our consideration of what it means to be a born-digital arts organization.


Artist Profile: Jennifer Chan


The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

Jennifer Chan. Tralier for the exhibition "Young Money" (Future Gallery, 2012).

I remember when I first saw the videos you were making in 2012 while you were at Syracuse, and I recall feeling as though you were imitating a "bro net art aesthetic" as a way to critique it. For example, the trailer for your exhibition "Young Money" (above) includes a shot of you holding cash, a rotating pizza, and a floating rendering of a bong. But now, ironically, that has actually become your signature style and when I see others making videos in that vein, I think they are copying you. How do you feel your video style came to be, and now that you've been immersed in it for some years, why do you use the formal elements that you do?

I want to defensively say "I wasn't copying art bros; they're copying me!" but I really don't think there is any originality after the internet and in some sense we subconsciously or directly retain emotional and aesthetic affects of everything we see. I wasn't thinking it was particularly "bro-ey" style that informed works like Young Money...Before I discovered "postinternet" art I was watching a lot of amateur YouTube videomakers like Wendy Vainity, Epic Mealtime, and random videos of boys performing pranks and dares, so there were some definite influences from vloggers and pro-am producers. I noticed that people actually enjoyed performing "bro" ironically, and I wanted to channel that parodic pleasure. It can't and won't be about youth and fantasy forever though. I'm currently working on a 15-minute video about equality that bastardizes film and documentary tropes...

Bad videomaking seemed sincere, effortless and convenient for the net. My older videos were inspired by fan culture on YouTube and could be lumped in with screen-recorded videos, unboxings, and reviews made by young videogamers. A direct aesthetic influence was my friend Daniel Waldman who made videos for fun with Windows Movie Maker and posted every one of them on YouTube without caring whether people thought it was art or not. 


Index of Rhizome Today for August


Rhizome Today is an experiment in ephemeral blogging: posts written and published each morning, and unpublished within a day. The latest post can always be found at

After some discussion about the best way to wrap up each month's posts, we've decided to publish a list of topics and people covered on Today during the preceding month. Here is the index for Rhizome Today in August, 2014. 


  • Amazon (8-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
  • ARE.NA (20-Aug)


Thank You. Now, we have work to do.


Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal and friends. 

After a successful conclusion of our 2014 Community Campaign yesterday, there are many positive feelings, and many things to say.

The format was an experiment. Our annual campaign, which is a significant part of our income each year, was shorter than ever before. We recognize that nature of online giving has changed since we started our appeals in 2001, and are sensitive to this now-crowded space. Inspired to innovate with our format by the success of 2009's $50,000 Web Page (which is still online, and well worth a look), we hoped that a grand finale, the 24-hour Internet Telethon, would carry us over the edge of our $20,000 goal. It did, in dramatic fashion. With just 20 minutes left, longtime Rhizomer and Telethon participant Tom Moody made the donation that carried us over the finish line.


Rhizome's 24-Hour Telethon: Lineup Announced


For 24 hours from 11am on Wed, March 19 (EST) on, and broadcasting live from Lu Magnus. 

Our volunteers will be manning the phones.

Our campaign still has some way to go to meet our $20,000 target, but our friends around the world are going to help drum up donations via our home, the internet. Donate in advance to receive a special thank you during the telecast! 


[Portrait of the internet as a young girl]


Playground, a two-person performance by Ann Hirsch and commissioned by Rhizome, premieres at the New Museum this Friday, October 4.  


When a stranger wrote me out of the blue asking me to write about Ann Hirsch, I felt intrigued. I had never heard of her, but a Google search turned up a slew of hits describing an output that seemed impressively extensive for someone so young. Hirsch, her website said, was born in 1985. She is a video and performance artist, based in New York, interested in portrayals of women in the media. But what pulled me in were the links to her videos.

While a graduate student at Syracuse University, Hirsch started a YouTube channel under the persona of a SUNY freshman named Caroline, username "Scandalishious." In more than one hundred videos that she uploaded over nearly two years, a pale, petite young woman appears, her often-disheveled brown bangs barely softening the intensity of her eyes when she stares into the camera. Caroline confides about boys, other classmates, clothes, and feelings of depression, in a high-pitched drawl that dips to gravelly lows when she slows to stress a point. Then she puts on music and dances and dances.

To Girl Talk, MGMT et al., Caroline leaps around, blurring some line between the erotic and the epileptic. She slaps and jiggles her ass inches from the screen, flops facedown on a sofa and spins her arms like a whirligig swimming crawl-stroke. Somehow, it works. Tens and tens of thousands of viewers have watched each of these videos. The documentary that Hirsch posted about Scandlishious on her website includes talking-head professions of love and selfie dance clips that all kinds of fans have sent back.


Rhizome Announces Commissions 2012 Grantees


For Your Eyes Only by Adam Harvey

Rhizome is pleased to announce the ten artists/collectives awarded grants through our annual Commissions Program. This year over 300 proposals were submitted by artists from around the world. Two commissions were selected by Rhizome's membership, through an open vote, and eight by a jury including Hans Ulrich Obrist, co director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery, London; Jonathan Lethem, author of The Ecstasy of Influence; Caitlin Jones, Executive Director of Western Front; Renny Gleeson of Weiden + Kennedy; and Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome. 

This year, the Rhizome staff has also selected an honorary award for Jesse Hulcher's REAL TIME MACHINE a proposal that represents his conviction, as well as a solid plan, for building functioning time machine. While we will not be awarding him a grant, we wish him the best in his endeavors.   

See below for the descriptions of each commission from the artists's proposals.

Jury Awards:

Karolina Sobecka - Persona

Persona is a game, a twist of the classic First Person Shooter (FPS) game genre: the gameplay is centered on a gun combat and experienced through the eyes of the gun-holder. The gun is a prominent feature of the composition, and in my game it fires automatically on anyone within its field of view. The player cannot drop the weapon or stop it from firing, but he can turn or hide — obstructing his vision. The object of the game is to shoot as few people as possible. The gameplay is as stimulating and intense as in the traditional FPS, but the conflict here is between the player and his own in-game persona. The off-screen player grapples for control, trapped in the body and actions of the game convention.

Dan Phiffer - is an invisible Temporary Autonomous Zone built on Internet technologies like wifi and HTML. The project seeks to build a network of independent wifi routers, each hosting local services that don't require an Internet connection. The routers have no upstream bandwidth, there is no mesh protocol. Each node of the network is a LAN island in an archipelago of affiliated websites.

Juan Obando - MUSEUM MIXTAPE (Dirty South Edition)

Composed of a series of videos, limited edition cassette copies, a website, and a downloadable album, Museum Mixtape aims to create a playful connection between hip-hop narratives and institutional art spaces. By inviting local rap artists to comment (via performance) on contemporary collections in their respective locations and presenting these collaborations as an audiovisual series, a new space is offered to reflect on the current state of cultural economies, institutional community engagement and emerging subcultural forms and their intersections.

Sarah Sweeney - The Forgetting Machine

The Forgetting Machine is a proposed iOS application that works within the field of social psychology and memory science. This project imagines a space in which the reconsolidation theory discussed by Jonah Lehrer governs not only our physical memories but the prosthetic memory objects stored in our archives. This project mimics the materiality of analog objects by destroying digital files a little bit each time they are accessed.

Brenna Murphy - Expanding Labyrinth

For the past two years, I have been steadily weaving a digital labyrinth for meditation and exploration. The labyrinth is carved into the shared netscape through a series of linked web pages that contain talismanic arrangements of images, videos and sounds. All of the work is generated from my daily creative experimentation with computer graphics programs. For me, graphics programs are spiritual tools that allow one to psychedelically engage with the fabric of reality. I'm deeply committed to pushing the innovative possibilities inherent in these contemporary folk art tools. My labyrinth of pages is an active public record of my explorations. I propose to direct a rhizome commission toward the expansion of this project over the course of the next year. I am requesting a monthly salary to support me in this full time endeavor.

Adam Harvey - Dark Objects

This project will explore the aesthetics of visual obscurity in an era of machine learning and computer vision. The result of this exploration will be the production of a series of objects for human eyes only: objects that cannot be recognized by computer vision, but can still be recognized by humans.

Kenyatta Cheese - The Project for the Study of Corporate Personhood

The Project for Corporate Personhood (aka Kenyatta Co) is a three month performance that explores the topic of identity at a moment when the language and ideas typically confined to product marketing have their way into the realm of everyday life.

Kenyatta Cheese (creator of Know Your Meme, also a person) will sell the exclusive use of his name to a corporation for a period of three months. That corporation will assume both the real world and online identity of 'Kenyatta Cheese' the person, remaining him as a brand with the help of ethnographers, lawyers, focus groups, a creative agency, and friends and acquaintances. The corporation will develop 'Kenyatta Cheese' as a product and take it to market, franchising his personhood for the remainder.  Meanwhile, Kenyatta (the person) will not be able to use his name except in the case of emergencies and air travel. 

Ann Hirsch - Playground 

I was one of these children wandering in the "pedophile’s playground", as Dr. Phil calls it. When I was thirteen I became involved online with an older, twenty seven year-old male. We would have naive versions of cyber sex and phone sex because I had no idea what masturbation or orgasms really were. He tried to teach me and eventually I got a "real world" sexual education. We also shared a level of intimacy I had never shared with anyone before. He confided in me about his muscular dystrophy, which would confine him to a wheelchair for the rest of his potentially short life as well as his resulting offline social shortcomings. At the time, I knew he would be classified as a pedophile but he was also my best friend, my confidant. He also respected my real world privacy and never asked where I lived, who my parents were, what school I went to. But he would often use the intimacy we had to convince me to cross lines I wasn't comfortable with and as I grew older, I realized I needed to pull away from this unhealthy relationship.

I want to create a performance piece based on this experience. It was a complex relationship, that I am not alone in experiencing. However, because of the taboos and technologies involved it's a relationship rarely portrayed in culture. I would cast and hire a young girl as a stand in for myself, and a man in his late twenties to play my online ex-boyfriend. They will sit across from one another and over the course of about thirty minutes, type out to one another a live chat, while their voices, pre recorded, will speak the lines of chat as they type them. The chat will be projected live for the audience to see and it will be a narrative of their relationship. It will start off innocent, as my own relationship with the older man did and become more and more sexual as the younger girl becomes more comfortable with the man and more curious about what he can teach her about sex. The goal is to humanize both the man and the girl in their relationship, with both of them taking something from the other while being exploited. The performance will be documented as a video and sound piece.

Member Awards:

Jeff Thompson - Computers on Law & Order

Starting in 1990, spanning 456 episodes and 20 seasons, “Law & Order” has no peers when it comes to following cultural and political trends through popular media. Because of its particular time, one of the clearest shifts during the show’s run is our relationship to technology.

I propose to create an extensive blog documenting computer use on "Law & Order". Over the course of the series, computers begin to appear the background of offices, then actors begin actively using them onscreen. Crimes using computers, BBS systems, email, and databases start to appear. Internet and email communication become norms, and as the show closes in 2010 mobile computing is in constant use.

Jessica Parris Westbrook and Adam Trowbridge - free and open source textBook/toolKit for art foundations

We are working on a free and open source “textbook/toolkit" that addresses the need to teach, contextualize, and share a wide array of contemporary media (art + design + social practice) skills in the first year of college (or earlier) using project scenarios that integrate technology and studio practice(s) in contemporary meaningful ways.  

We believe that as companies like Apple turn from education and full operating systems to iDevice designed for consumption and as megacorporations like NBC Universal (Comcast GE) abandon support for any sort of open Internet in favor of intellectual property control, young artists should be introduced to the technologies and approaches behind the constant manipulative media stream they are subject to from birth and should have some agency in making digital art and design work free of corporate influence and constraints. 

The textbook/toolkit will address and include both technical topics (e.g. what are vectors, how can you set up an ad hoc mobile network, etc) and conceptual approaches (e.g. social networking sites as control structures, media literacy, history of the internets, new forms and materials, etc) as well as language and resources for going further with skills and ideas. This textbook can be used as a reliable point of reference for those of us who need to develop and design scalable responsive curriculum for beginners. Our goal is to design for artists and teachers, in a format that is accessible to a very wide demographic, and friendly to all levels of learning.



Artist Profile: Ann Hirsch


Stills from Here For You (Or My Brief Love Affair with Frank Maresca)

Having appeared as a recurring character on various reality television shows such as “Frank the Entertainer,” would you consider reality television to be an artistic medium that you work through? If so, are there any important attributes specific to it? Were you interested in reality television due to the wide audience that it could offer your work?

“Medium” is a tricky word here because most other media bear the ability to become a craft to an artist, one you can mold, shape and learn to use better and better over time. Reality TV is more like a grab bag. You never know what’s going to happen. So, if it is a medium, it is not a medium that you, as an artist, are ever really in control of. Someone else is calling the shots--the producers, storywriters and editors.

I currently think of reality TV more like a landscape, in which I can appear and reappear in different places in various ways.

I went on “Frank the Entertainer…In a Basement Affair” to just be this anomaly. To get the non-art audience who might see me to scratch their heads for a minute and say “Hey what is this girl doing here? I’m used to seeing girls that look and act like X on these shows.” And then, after I sang the dirty rap song, which was completely incongruous with the woman I had been portraying up to that point, to have audiences see that I was not who they thought I was—that none of the girls on these shows are.

Building on the last question related to reality TV, are there some instances on air in which you’re mainly acting, and others in ...